In the immortal words of the King of Beasts, as He raises his newest cub into the sky above the savannah, "It's the circle of life."
I am well aware that my posts of late have hovered dangerously close to the cliff most people don't wish to step near. But even as Beve and I have set up camp here, we are also surrounded by beloveds among our family and close friends who hover at the other end of that circle, where it all begins.
As I write this, I am thinking of three couples whom I love greatly who are awaiting the birth of their first child. And another whose son has just begun to crawl. Life is burgeoning around us. My siblings are becoming grandparents as are my friends. And it's a wonderful time. This very day, should God choose, a new child might take his first breaths outside the safest place he'll ever be. So I'm thinking particularly of him this day. And of his parents who wait in hope and wonder, and the slightest bit of worry.
The closest moment to that first Christmas morning a woman ever gets is with the birth of her children. We have the rare and wonderful privilege of sharing in Mary's lot. Theologians, of course, point to the travail a woman must go through to birth a child, recognizing that Eve's taking of that fruit resulted in that pain. But there is also the joy of it. Ever since I first felt it, I've believed that the best definition of human joy was the feeling of a baby's kicking in my womb. God chose me--plain, old, ordinary me-- to grow another human being. There isn't a word large enough for how that feels. But that's nothing to the moment of 'first contact'. Of seeing that baby face to face, after only feeling and sensing and being changed by its presence for all those months.
There is hard work in it. A little fear. The whole thing is so unknown, the first time, anyway (but always, in some ways). And a woman, even one with the best support in the world, a husband who can hardly wait to hold that child, one who's longing to be a dad, still has to do much of it on her own. It's the way of things. God set it up that way. He told Eve that as well.
But the promise He gave her, that she'd be saved by that travail, is surely true for each of us who has borne a child. We become something new the moment we become pregnant. From that first moment, never again are we merely our own. Whether we carry the child to term (please God!), or lose it, we are mothers. I believe that. And even when have our bodies back to ourselves and must care for them more intentionally, there's a certain thread mothers feel for our children. For the rest of our lives, we're mothers. Their mothers. Whether we stay home a week, a month or forever, we're mothers. I will never forget watching my grandmother at an unguarded moment before her youngest daughter's memorial service. My grandmother was almost 90, and leaning heavily on her walker gazing at the pictures from my aunt's life that were set up in front of the sanctuary. Grandmomie, normally so in control of her emotions, looked completely shattered by this loss of the second of her four children. She was pure mother in that moment. 'Why, it never changes,' I thought then. It never, ever changes--that thread that connects my beating heart to theirs.
It's a powerful thing, a beautiful, powerful, humbling thing to be a mother.
And a father, too, of course. I know less about that. Only from watching, not from being. But that's exactly what these expectant dads are doing right now, isn't it? Becoming dads by watching, not by being. Not yet, anyway. And that's also what God intended. That their part would be the supportive one. That they'd have to stand at the side and marvel, be humbled by it all. That's a pretty good way to begin, come to think of it. Humbly marveling at what God has done.
It's the circle of life. We wait and watch and marvel, and long for the moment when we get to touch and see and welcome who we've longed for.
I'm praying today for all those who are pregnant with this longing (pregnant means waiting, after all). For the ones who have a mere day or week to wait and those who have several months left. My prayers are that you be filled with awe and wonder and strength and peace and joy.
May you humbly marvel at who you meet on your child's birth-day.